It has been three years in the making, but The Great American Playhouse is now set to open in Oro Valley beginning Aug. 22, when the comedic, melodramatic, sing and dance style theater kicks off its grand opening with the inaugural production, “Pistol Pete: The World’s Greatest Cowboy.” 

It was in 2010 that Nancy LaViola and artistic director Sean MacArthur, both with extensive experience in theater, decided to team up and build their own playhouse.

“We figured we only have one life to live, we better do what we want to do now,” said LaViola, who is also experienced in the hospitality field. 

After some initial scouting, LaViola decided the Town of Oro Valley was the most suitable place to introduce the business. The facility is located at 13005 N. Oracle Road.

“This area is just booming up here, and they have nothing but a movie theater, and absolutely no live entertainment,” said LaViola, who also plans on incorporating a youth theater for the area’s younger generation. The theater works very closely with high schools in the area, and has even hired some students to help with the upcoming show.

In preparation of the grand opening, LaViola first sought out a playwriter and musical director, and from there, announced auditions to find actors. About 35 actors auditioned, and nine were selected. 

Now, as the finishing touches are being placed on the theater, those actors have already begun rehearsal for “Pistol Pete.” LaViola, who was a dance major at The University of Arizona, is in charge of the choreography and overseeing the production. 

As with all acts to be featured at the playhouse, the family-friendly play will run two hours, and the audience is encouraged to be interactive.

“It’s not the type of theater that when the lights go down, everyone is quiet,” said LaViola. “Servers will continue to serve, and people can ‘yay’ or ‘boo’ for the good guys and bad guys.”

Actors will sometimes make their way from the stage around the playhouse in close proximity to attendees, and sometimes audience members will be asked to join the cast on stage. 

In addition to the always-free popcorn, the menu will include such items as pizza, cheese crisps, sandwiches, ice cream, soda, beer, and wine.

Shows will wrap up with a spirited olio from performers.

The experience is bound to be a fun getaway, says MacArthur.

“It’s an escape for two hours,” he said. “A family-friendly, wholesome show with some laughs, some good music, and dance. It’s that step into somewhere else. Laugh, boo, cheer, and leave with a little bit of a skip in your step.”

Tickets for “Pistol Pete” are still for sale, and can be purchased by calling 512-5145. 

The show schedule is as follows:

Grand opening weekend

show schedule

Thursday, Aug. 22: 7 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 23 7 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 24: 7 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 25: 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Tickets are $17.95 for adults, $15.95 for seniors, active military, and students, and $7.95 for children 12 years old and younger.

The 9,000-square-foot theater, which was previously a Bashas’ and Ike’s Market, seats 199 guests.

Tickets for the second show, a Christmas-themed performance, will go on sale sometime in September. That show will premiere on Nov. 21 and runs through Jan. 4.

More information about The Great American Playhouse can be found online at

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